Surprise Team of 2007?

HOld on to your hats and sit down. Here’s something positive about the Orioles from a national writer. 

From Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal:

Orioles

2006 record: 70-92.

Key players: Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen.

They play in the wrong division. They’ve got the wrong owner. And after nine straight losing seasons, it’s reasonable to call them the game’s most underachieving franchise; the Orioles, playing at Camden Yards, possess far greater financial resources than say, the Pirates and Royals.

Co-GMs Jim Duquette and Mike Flanagan put those resources to use this off-season, spending on — ahem — the sport’s most volatile commodity, relief pitching. The signing of right-handed reliever Danys Baez for $19 million over three years was particularly jarring, but at least the front office addressed the team’s weaknesses.

The additions of Baez, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson should improve a bullpen that last season was next-to-last in the majors in ERA. The additions of outfielder Jay Payton and infielder/outfielder Aubrey Huff should bolster an offense that ranked only 10th in the AL in runs.

The only way for the Orioles to challenge the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, however, is if Cabrera and Loewen make the same jump that left-hander Erik Bedard did last season. If that happens — and if the division somehow proves weaker than expected — then the O’s could turn into the Tigers East, reviving with young pitching.

More likely, the Orioles will improve modestly, then target a breakthrough in ’08. Of course, the Devil Rays should be much-improved by then, while the Red Sox finally should have a closer and the Yankees could have Andruw Jones playing center field. Things never get easier in the AL East.

Things could work out well this season. It all hinges on pitching. If Cabrera makes that big turn and ditto for Loewen, then we’ve got a chance. If our starters only make it 5 innings a game, well then… that’s bad news.

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